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View from the Booth: Kyle Whittingham has a key decision to make to ensure Utes' offensive success

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 6:23 p.m. MST

Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham watches as the University of Utah practices Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 during preparations to play Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY —

The Norm Chow Era at the University of Utah was quick. After just one full season on the job, Chow is leaving for his first and likely last head coaching position. The Hawaiian native is heading back home to run the Warrior football program. After 41 years of coaching at the high school, college and pro levels he's finally getting his chance to make a program his own.

I've been lucky enough this season to have a weekly audience with Chow in his office on Wednesday mornings. He has given me great insights to his philosophies and college football. Most of all he has been generous with his time and opinions.

I asked Chow on several occasions about why he hadn't gotten a head coaching job with all his success. Despite the many rumors I've heard over the years about what was or wasn't promised in Provo, Chow always took the high road and said nothing but positive things about his previous employers or possibilities.

I couldn't be happier for Norm and his opportunity at Hawaii. Good things come to those who wait and those who work hard. Chow has done both and now has his own program. So what happens now with the Utah offensive coordinator job? I think I've been asked this question about a thousand times this week. My simple answer has been I don't have a clue. Here's what I am pretty sure about: Kyle Whittingham will take his time and do his due diligence with this hire.

A year ago after the loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Whittingham made it very clear to me and others that he wanted to change his team's offensive look. He talked repeatedly about wanting a "downhill running game" to complement his team's defensive toughness.

He got the offensive style he wanted this year with Norm Chow calling the shots and John White rushing for more than 1,400 yards. Unfortunately, the passing game wasn't there to complement the rushing attack.

My guess is that Whittingham will want to stay with the pro-style or West Coast offense moving forward. But the question is who does he tab to run that offense? If he stays in-house there are a couple of options currently on staff. If he goes outside the program, look for the choice to be someone that Whittingham knows well and is comfortable with. Just for fun let's throw out some possibilities.

Aaron Roderick: Currently coaching wide receivers at Utah, Roderick was the co-offensive coordinator and play caller for a season before Chow's arrival.

Advantage: Knows the personnel and is familiar with what Whittingham wants, worked closely with Norm Chow this season.

Disadvantage: Was replaced a year ago in the same position.

Dave Schramm: Currently coaching the running backs at Utah, Schramm was the co-offensive coordinator with Roderick for a season before Chow's arrival.

Advantage: Helped to coordinate and develop the running game that was the cornerstone of Utah's offense this season.

Disadvantage: Was replaced a year ago in the same position.

Dirk Koetter: Currently the offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Koetter helped build the Boise State football program from 1998-2000. Has been an offensive coordinator at UTEP, Missouri, Boston College and Oregon.

Advantage: Knows the region, having grown up up in Pocatello, Idaho. Has run successful offenses just about everywhere he's been.

Disadvantage: Currently in the NFL and might not want to return to college as an offensive coordinator.

Seth Littrell: Currently unemployed and the former offensive coordinator at Arizona, Littrell was on Mike Stoops' staff at Arizona for three seasons and before that he was on Mike Leach's staff at Texas Tech. Advantage: Helped to coordinate one of the top offensive attacks in the Pac-12 last season at Arizona. Tight with Mike Leach, who is good friends with Whittingham.

Disadvantage: Littrell is a spread offense guy. If Utah plans to stay with a pro-style attack he may not fit.

These are just a few names and food for thought. I have no hard and fast information from Whittingham and certainly haven't been given a look at the list that's probably sitting in his desk drawer.

Remember, a year ago he played the Chow hire extremely close to the vest, to the point that members of his own staff had no idea the hire was coming.

What I do know is that this might be the biggest hire that Whittingham has made in his seven seasons on the job. We saw how important a diverse and potent offense is to success in the Pac-12 this past season and with the hires of Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, Jim Mora and Leach in the Pac-12, the stakes have been raised that much higher.

Bill Riley can be heard as the voice of the University of Utah on gamedays and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.

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